Monday, February 28, 2011

Lola's Mexican Kitchen - The fine print

Lola's Mexican Kitchen
Stamford, CT

Lola's Mexican Kitchen is the trendy new eatery on Bedford Street. It's located directly across the street from Butterfield 8 (I refuse to capitalize the "u") and happens to be owned by the same person. Butterfield 8, of course, is that bar that constantly blares obnoxious techno music, creates a false illusion of exclusivity by half-filling the place so that the line spills out into the street, and doesn't allow customers under 23. File that under "foreshadowing."

I've never been inside Butterface, (whoops - Butterfield), but Lola's felt a bit like it would be owned by the same person, especially judging by the less tan version of Ronnie from the Jersey Shore working the front desk. Still though, the atmosphere is pretty cool.  Dim lighting, exposed brick and unstained wood surround you, giving the place a cozy feel.

As usual, my first move was to glance at the taps. Right away, a green Dogfish tap handle caught my eye.  I have to say I was pretty excited - I was expecting to be stuck with my choice of watery mexican beers (which of course occupied most of the remaining taps).  60 minute IPA it is!

With Dogfish on tap,  tortilla chips in a folded-over brown paper bag and salsa on the table, what could go wrong? (File that under "even more obvious foreshadowing"). Munching on the chips, we perused the menu, and by the time we were ready to place our order, the bag was empty. We asked the waiter for another round - "Sure, it will be right out," and continued looking over the menu. It wasn't very large, but it had all of the expected Tex-Mex favorites.  Salads served in a taco bowl, burritos, tacos, enchiladas and a few "house specialties".  I quickly narrowed my options down to either a burrito for $16, or chimichanga (deep fried burrito) for $16. Of course, as we all know, deep fried always wins.

My chimichanga was golden brown and came loaded with beef and cheese, and a side of rice and beans.  As I dug in, I realized that only one thing could make it better - hot sauce.  Since none was in sight, I asked our waiter for some - extra hot, of course.  "Sure, It'll be right out," He replied. 20 seconds later I was soaking my chimi in the hot stuff (insert your own joke here).  I must say that it was a pretty slammin' chimichanga, and because of its substantial size, I had some leftovers to take home. Things were going great! (File under "super-duper obvious, any-minute-now foreshadowing").

And that's when things took a turn for the worse.  The food was great, but it was the bill that left a bad taste in my mouth. First, they charged us for three Margaritas when we only had two.  Not a big deal - we told the waiter and he fixed it.  But the extra drink charge made us look further into the bill. They charged us a dollar for chips, and a dollar for salsa. They charged $5 to replace the chicken on an $11 salad with five shrimp (twice what it costs at most places) . They charged $2 for the hot sauce.  What kind of crap is this!?  This was a TEX MEX restaurant!  Chips, salsa, and hot sauce should be a given. And if not, we should have at least been advised that these things were going to cost extra. The table of two next to us received the same portion of chips that we did to start, so why not give two portions of chips to a table twice the size? And they're REALLY going to charge $2 for a few spoonfuls of hot sauce at a MEXICAN restaurant, with already overpriced food?  Have you ever been charged for soy sauce at a Chinese restaurant? Or crushed red pepper at a pizza place? Or ketchup at a diner? I don't think so.

Take Rio Border Cafe in Norwalk, for example. The entrees are about three bucks cheaper, on average (and still delicious). There's two bottles of hot sauce on every table, free of charge. Unlimited chips and salsa. AND, if it's your birthday, you get a free T-shirt, fried ice cream and a sombrero. So there.

The money wasn't going to make or break us, but it was the principle.  I let the manager (the Ronnie look-a-like) know my thoughts on the matter, but he didn't seem to care. "Oh, yeah," he said. "I'll remind the waitstaff to let people know that those things cost extra".  After the nine dollars of hidden fees (nineteen if you count the extra drink) I felt like I had just been fleeced by a late night infomercial.

So there you have it. Good food, but I certainly won't be going back.


Lola's Mexican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stamford Restaurant Weeks Winter 2011

Sunday, February 27th to Sunday, March 13th

Two weeks of Prixe Fixe meals (usually app, entree, and dessert) at the restaurants listed below.  We're still wondering why these things don't come with beer...

$10.11 Lunch and $15.11 Dinner

$15.11 Lunch and $25.11 Dinner
Kotobuki Japanese Restaurant

$20.11 Lunch and $30.11 Dinner
Columbus Park Trattoria
Market Restaurant


Westport Restaurant Week Winter 2011

Sunday, February 27th - Sunday, March 5th

We can't find any links to the restaurant week menus posted online, so we've linked to the restaurants' websites for you.  Our top pick?  Bobby Q's!  Review to come soon...

$10.11 Lunch and $20.11 Dinner

$15.11 Lunch and $30.11 Dinner

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum - Best Beer Ever?

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
Imperial/Double IPA
10.4% ABV, 100 IBU

Choosing favorites is risky business, but halfway through my first glass of this stuff, I had a revelation.

I can proudly say that this is my favorite beer.

Weighing in at 10.4% with 100 IBUs (International Bittering Units), this behemoth of a beer packs a mighty punch.  It's exactly the flavor profile I love -  bright, cheery hop aromas of zesty grapefruit up front.  Smooth, mildly sweet malts, balanced with hop bitterness and incredible fruity and citrusy hop flavors.  A bit of alcohol warmth, but no bite. I'm telling you, this thing was perfect. It's everything I've ever dreamed of. And that's when my revelation continued.

As hop-infused and alcohol doused brain neurons fired joyously, I realized how wonderful it is to be a beer drinker. You see, wine is almost entirely dependent on the crop, which depends on the weather conditions and a multitude of other things out of our control.  Beer is all about chemistry and ratios of ingredients, so when a brewer stumbles upon a magical combination, they can replicate it.  And as long as there's a market for it, that brew will be available next year, and years after. Stars don't need to align to make a beer delicious, so prices remain reasonable. A great wine can cost THOUSANDS of dollars, but I can buy 24oz of the best beer I'VE ever had (Ryan agrees) for a mere $7.99. Oh, the joys of being a beer drinker. Also, we're substantially less douchey.

So that's it. Hoptimum is an incredible alcoholic masterpiece. If you're lucky enough to find a store that still has some, buy it all and thank us later.


WARNING: Do not plan on drinking any smaller beers after this, they'll all shy away by comparison

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coalhouse Pizza

Coalhouse Pizza
Stamford, CT

Taps [rotating]: Blue Moon, Captain Lawrence Extra Gold, Captain Lawrence Espresso Stout, Dogfish 90 Minute IPA, Magic Hat #9, Rogue Dead Guy, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Victory Hop Devil, Stella Artois, Stone Arrogant Bastard

When I first stepped foot into the place they call Coalhouse Pizza there was football on the TV, cold beer on tap, a fifty-cent wing special, paintings of blues/rock legends lining the walls, and dozens of strange looking cigar-box guitars hanging above the bar. Clearly, I was home.

Now, I had always heard that Coalhouse had a great beer selection, so the first thing I did was check out the list of beers on tap, which reads like the answer to the question “hey Ryan, what are some of your favorite beers?” Dogfish 90. Arrogant Bastard. Dead Guy Ale. Victory Hop Devil. Sierra Nevada Celebration. Whaaaaaaaat?

At another bar, any one of those beers would elicit the “stop it right there, that’s what I’m having” response. Here, you have to make the tough choice (or just order them all one after the other. Go big or go home).  If nothing on draught strikes your fancy, you could try one of the dozens of bottled beers lining the shelves above the taps. The Coalhouse beer selection is truly an embarrassment of riches.

 With beers in hand, we recommend that you order up a couple dozen wings tossed in original house sauces. They’re crispy, enormous, and totally satisfying. Then, lick your fingers clean and try one of their coal-fired pizzas. The thin crust is light and crisp, coated in a fresh tangy sauce with more topping options than you can shake a stick at. Seriously, I tried. My arm got tired. Among the toppings are traditional favorites like pepperoni, mushrooms and bacon, of course, but you’re also presented with some intriguingly unconventional toppings like Korean BBQ Beef, caramelized onions, homemade sausage, and flaming hot sauces.

Also, if you see the owner, Gerard, say “hello”.

 Whoops! That’s not Gerard – that’s Alexi Lalas from the 1994 World Cup. We didn’t have a picture of Gerard, but this is what he would look like if he grew out his hair and beard and dressed head to toe in brightly-colored neon polyester soccer clothes. (Come on Gerard, make it happen!!!)

He’s a tall man with red hair and a red goatee, and he’s always at Coalhouse…he’s hard to miss. I’m explaining his appearance to you for two reasons: The first is that he’s an extremely friendly guy – I’ve been there three times now and I feel like I’ve been coming in for years. He’ll listen to your suggestions and even get on the phone with his beer distributors if you think there’s a beer that he should be carrying. The second reason you need to know what Gerard looks like is that you need to know who he is in order to join the Coalhouse Beer Club.

For $20, you’re given a sweet Coalhouse beer mug, you’re entitled to discounted drafts and early notice for upcoming events, and a whole host of other perks. As Beer Club members we’ve already enjoyed several free pints and were given a FREE small pizza as taste-test guinea pigs for a new super-spicy recipe (which was absolutely delicious…and really effin’ spicy).

With Beer Club VIP status Coalhouse has quickly become one of our regular watering holes, and they’re constantly hosting events and giving us reasons to go back. (Trivia night, open mic night, beer dinners, etc)

But in the end, all you really need to know about Coalhouse is this: I wasn’t hungry when I started writing this, but by the time I had finished, I chewed off my left arm.  We will be back. Soon.


Coalhouse Pizza on Urbanspoon

Follow up from last post:
As I alluded to in the last post, we were enjoying our Beer Club Member VIP status one day when Gerard dropped the bomb on us.

“Hey, how come you guys haven’t written in your blog recently?”

We’re still confused as to how he knew FPB, but he knew us. And that, dear readers, is when we knew it was time to bring the blog back. Go to Coalhouse and thank Gerard yourself. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Call it a Comeback. No, seriously, do it.

It’s been over 7 months since Kyle and I last posted on Food Plus Beer. (Sorry about that).

What can I say? The blog was dead. Buried. Finished. Work, relationships, and other similarly stupid things had taken over and prevented us from blowing your mind with manly culinary exploits, and frankly, we had no plans to start rolling again. That is, until something extraordinary happened:

A total stranger mentioned Food Plus Beer to Kyle and I while we were out to dinner. Yeah, that’s right…we were called out by a restaurant owner for not blogging anymore. What are the friggin’ odds?? Who knew people actually read this thing? I was shocked, awed, and totally impressed. (I’ve been known to have somewhat of an ego).

So I looked at Kyle and he looked at me and I looked at the restaurant owner and he looked at Kyle and we looked at one of the waiters and we all agreed: it’s back on. Much like the man upstairs, FPB has risen again from the dead.

Now, if only we could turn water into barleywine. (Haven’t you missed my crappy puns?)

In the next post (we promise it won’t be in 7 months), we’ll reveal who this mysterious restaurant owner is, and whether his restaurant is good, or sucks. Ooh, the suspense is killing me!

I missed you, anonymous, faceless reader.